×

Bob Dylan’s Designer Brings It All Back Home

Martin Newman’s work on the singer's Malibu manse has earned him a Hollywood clientele

“It’s been said that architecture is frozen music,” says Palm Springs resident Martin Newman, quoting Goethe about his role as a designer and restorer of classic Spanish and Mediterranean homes. “My role is composer and conductor of the mood and tone of the piece, all the while staying true to the aesthetic and the budget and time frame.”

The music metaphor is fitting, considering Newman’s first big client was Bob Dylan, whose former wife Sara spotted one of Newman’s coats fashioned from an Indian blanket in Beverly Hills in the mid-’70s and demanded to know who made it. One thing led to another before Newman, who grew up in Malibu, got a call from someone in the same area code. “Sara called and said, ‘Can you come out to Malibu and measure my husband and I for a couple of these great coats?’

(From the pages of the April 23 issue of Variety.)

“So I go out there and knock on the door and who do you think answers the door? Uncle Bob. We became friends because I guess he liked my energy and I wasn’t a threat. I was with him every day for four years after that.”

Part of that time was spent on Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue tour, for which Newman designed everything from feathered cowboy hats to cases for Dylan’s guitars and harmonicas.

At the time, Dylan was renting actor Martin Milner’s house, but when he decided to build his own Malibu compound in Point Dume, Newman became part of the design team, which included Robert Gilbert, who had become famous for his work on the homes of rock stars and pro athletes, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

“We were showing the Dylans these books of architectural features like arches,” he recalls. “In architecture, there are seven classic arches, and Bob said, ‘Just use them all.’ That was kind of his attitude.”

“Working for him, the whole crew being artisans, this whole thing that rose from the earth — it was a real castle. There’s a whale-watching tower. Each room has a theme — there’s a cathedral room, a storytelling room. We set up a tile factory on the property because there’s a million dollars worth of hand-made tile in this house. It’s an extraordinary place.”

The Dylan manse, a hodgepodge of Santa Fe, Spanish and Moorish appointments, including a Russian-styled copper dome crowning that aforementioned tower, might be the most eclectic property ever worked on by Newman, whose almost religious adherence to the aesthetics of the Spanish colonial and missionary revival movements in Southern California is his calling card.

“I only work on pre-WWII Spanish — that’s my particular niche and that’s why people come to me,” he says.

Newman’s work ranges from the interiors to the landscaping, and includes procuring everything from antique furnishings, Malibu tiles, blacksmith-worked iron accents and lighting fixtures — what he calls “the jewelry of the house.” What isn’t vintage he has reproduced from “the rarest of the rarest” items in his vast personal collection.

Newman’s clients have included actors Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross, the Eagles’ Don Henley and Bernie Leadon, label bigwig Irving Azoff and songwriter Billy Steinberg (“Like a Virgin”), as well as homes formerly owned by Bing Crosby, Cary Grant and pioneering movie mogul Joseph Schenck. Each project lasts an average of two years, and Newman works only on referrals.

“Most people who spend the kind of money that these homes cost to get and then the money involved in doing the historic restoration, they’re very committed to getting it right,” he says.

Newman’s current project is the old Ronald Reagan/Jane Wyman property in Las Palmas, Palm Springs’ equivalent of Beverly Hills/Bel Air, as well as a 1937 home near the El Mirador medical center that was bought by the founder of Cowboys and Indians magazine.

“I’m not a contractor and I’m not and architect,” explains Newman, “but I know more about my subject than most architects because I studied it. There’s no substitute for authenticity, and that’s what I live by.”

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • A Quiet Place

    Why Dynamic Pricing for Movie Tickets Could Be a Tough Sell

    People aren’t going to the movies as much this summer. Are they staying away because the films are duds, or is it because tickets are getting too expensive? AMC is making a bet that cost, not quality, is behind the recent downturn. Last week, the country’s largest exhibitor announced it will be testing a new [...]

  • Yara Shahidi

    Audible Teams Up With Big Names as Audio-Only Storytelling Expands

    Hobnobbing with the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Kate McKinnon and Yara Shahidi isn’t typically the gloss applied to the cerebral audiobook set, but Audible is putting the humble audio story through its own movie-makeover montage, inking high-profile development deals with entertainment names like “The Walking Dead” comics creator Skybound Entertainment, Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and Lorne [...]

  • Warner Records Names Claudia Butzky Senior

    Warner Records Names Claudia Butzky Senior VP of Brand Partnerships

    Warner Records has named Claudia Butzky senior vice president of brand partnerships, strategic marketing & commercial sync licensing, the company announced today. Based in Los Angeles, Butzky will report to Tom Corson, Co-Chairman & COO, Warner Records, and essentially will fill the role vacated by former EVP Lori Feldman, who left the company earlier this [...]

  • Kathleen FinchDiscovery Executive Session panel, TV

    Listen: Discovery's Kathleen Finch on How to Nurture Lifestyle Brands

    Kathleen Finch is a big believer in staying in your lane. Discovery’s chief lifestyle brands officer juggles a portfolio of 11 linear cable channels and their digital offshoots, from Food Network and HGTV to TLC and crime-centric Investigation Discovery. Many of Finch’s channels are defying the gravity of the moment in generating extremely high levels [...]

  • Big Hit Entertainment, Home to BTS,

    Big Hit Entertainment, Home to BTS, Posts Blockbuster Results for First Half of 2019

    South Korea’s Big Hit Entertainment, home to BTS, revealed its revenues for the first half of 2019 at an event called “Big Hit Corporate Briefing With the Community” held in Seoul today. The company posted record revenues of $166.3 million — just $12 million short of its revenues for all of 2018, according to analysis [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content